Monday, May 21, 2007

Pop Culture Moment: Mike Nichols & Elaine May

Lately I've been listening to a lot of old comedy albums that I found at the library. I've taken out some Bill Cosby classics (like Revenge, which is even better than I remember it), and Lenny Bruce (amazing when he's not ranting about his legal troubles), but I've been stuck on two artists in particular: Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Today Mike Nichols is famous director, with such films as The Graduate, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Angels In America to his credit. Elaine May is less of a household name but has directed a few movies (including the infamous Ishtar) as well as garnering two Academy Award nominations for writing (Heaven Can Wait and Primary Colours).

In the late 50s and early 60s, Nichols and May were well-known for their brand of improvisational comedy, and their performances on stage and on television were always a big hit. They put out three albums: Improvisations to Music, Mike Nichols & Elaine May Examine Doctors, and the Grammy-award winning (and my favourite) An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Their repartee is amazing: they go back and forth with ease, and whether they're working off a script or from the seats of their pants they're always right on. It's not fast-paced standup comedy, nor the kind of improvisation you might be familiar with, but their cerebral humour rewards careful listening.

As I was enjoying a nice lazy long weekend, I decided to see how many of their performances were available online, and I'm happy to say that there are quite a lot of performances to choose from. I encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day and follow the links below: if you've never heard them before, like I said, they're a real treat, even if you have to go to the accursed YouTube for some of them:
I'll add more if I can find them, but it's hard to find free streaming audio if you're a Canadian. Damn RIAA...

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